Down to Zero Colombia

The Down to Zero (DtZ) program includes preventive and protective measures that focus on actual child victims and children at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a fundamental violation of children's rights. It consists of child prostitution, child pornography, and child trafficking for sexual purposes. The DtZ program is carried out in four countries in Latin America, including Colombia.

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The Down to Zero (DtZ) program combats commercial sexual exploitation of children and takes preventive and protective measures that focus on actual child victims and at-risk children. The project in Colombia targets four different groups: Children, Community, Government, and Private Sector. Although in Colombia there are policies to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children, they are not yet put into practice. The same shall apply to the shelters for exploited children; they exist but do not run properly yet. Even worse, cities like Riohacha and Albania don���t have any shelters at all. Shelters are much needed as the number of cases of exploitation and trafficking grows. A positive development is that the private sector makes progress by working on the development of laws in relation to sexual exploitation in the tourist industry. Also the mining sector deals with solutions for commercial sexual exploitation of children.

In the DtZ program we aim at teaching at-risk children and adolescents and other victims to speak out, advocate, and seek protection against sexual exploitation. Personal development plans are an important tool in the program. We motivate children and adolescents to get organized in youth let organizations that access specialized services that protect them, help them rehabilitate, reintegrate, and reduce their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

Government and stakeholders
We make private sector stakeholders in the tourist industry, the mining, cement and sugar industries, and the transportation sector aware of their role in fighting child abuse and exploitation, and make sure they amend their practices and/or business models based on ethical principles and values to actively protect children. Last but not least, the government at all levels and in all fields is urged to take action.
Down to Zero Colombia

Target group

Children: The target children are mostly urban, includes boys and girls, at risk and child victims. Target age range is between 11-18 years.

Communities: The Latin American region will work in 4 countries, in which the municipalities are divided into communities with different political/administrative denomination depending of the size of their population (barrios, sectores, parajes, etc.). In Colombia the DTZ works in Bogotá (Chapineiro y Candelaria) and La Guajira (Rioacha and Alabania).

Government: Executive government institutions and law enforcement agencies at different levels (national and subnational, considering the existing decentralized and autonomous political organizations) will be addressed through advocacy and strengthening institutional capacities and law enforcement.

Private sector: In the fourth pathway, industries of tourism and extractives (mining) are addressed to involve them in fighting CSEC.


All groups: children, communities, governments and the private sector will be strengthened as key players in the fight against CSEC.
With the government should take a bigger responsibility in protecting children. Lobby to make funds available by the government is part of the project. In addition, communities will be strengthened to protect their children. A increased knowledge with children to protect themselves The private sector undertakes not allow CSEC in their work areas. These elements are likely to have a long-term impact.

Goals overview

1. Children: Child victims and children at risk are empowered and act as agents of change and are able to protect themselves from (re)victimization of CSEC.

2.Communities: Targeted communities are safer, offer better protection to child victims and can prevent children from becoming (re)victimized.

3. Governments and law enforcement agencies: governments and judiciary systems apply policies, plans of actions, budgets and protocols to effectively combat CSEC.

4.Private sector: market leaders or branch associations of the tourist industry, ICT, transportation and extractives are actively engaged in the protection of children against CSEC.

Hernan Franco is a Colombian businessman, father of three. With 35 years of experience in the tourist sector, he decided to open his own hotel, located on the Chapinero area, near the center of Bogota.

At his hotel, for years he noticed tourists going into their rooms with young Colombian women, but he knew nothing about commercial sexual exploitation and its consequences. Hernan felt that something wasn´t right, but he didn´t know what to do and at the same time, he felt impotent because he didn´t have the legal tools to deal with this situation that was going on at his hotel.

Sexual tourism in Colombia is a phenomenon and a social problem that has been growing, and which affects the most vulnerable population: children and teens that fall for false work offers and promises for fast money.

In the cities of Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin and Cali, millions of tourist visits are registered per year, and many of them buy tourist packages over the internet. There are tourist packages that offer sexual services from minors and online catalogues offered by hotels and hostels for locals, but mainly for foreigners.

It was through the RENACER foundation, partner of the program DOWN TO ZERO that Hernan found out about ‘THE CODE’, an international certification aimed at hotels that want to increase their prestige and make it known to their clients that they are against CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children).

¨When I found out about ‘The Code’” through the RENACER, I understood that it is a way of having a protective shield for children, and when our guests visit our website they will know how committed we are against Commercial Sexual Exploitation”. He mentions that RENACER gave him the technical assistance to access The Code and to know how to behave in the face of any situation of identified CSEC.  “The main benefit from the adoption of this code for me, the employees and the company is generating conscience in our clients, that we are committed to the construction of sustainable and responsible tourism and that the core of what we understand as development is our children and adolescents. Now we have a more cautious, critical and watchful eye for fighting CSEC¨, states Hernan.

In order to access The Code, the hotels go through a process of training for their staff for the prevention of CSEC and for alerting about it to the competent authorities.  

The hotel still participates in preventive actions against CSEC and is a reference for other hotels in the district. Hernan says that, thanks to this whole process of follow-up for the adoption of good practices for the protection of children from commercial sexual exploitation, today he has a work-team that is knowledgeable of and committed to the issue and that any member of his staff is trained to identify and denounce this crime.   

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